Tuesday, October 2, 2012

To the Non-Christians


As you read the following essay, keep these questions in mind:

My main purpose in writing this informal essay is for NON BELIEVERS. That's right! I am writing to people who do not call themselves Christians. I am specifically writing to people who have been oppressed by Christians and people who have been slandered and mistreated by Christians who have used the Bible as a tool of hate instead of love. That's right! I am writing this to you all. So, if you read this, please do pass this essay along.

WHY WOULD I WANT TO WRITE ABOUT THE BIBLE TO NON BELIEVERS? Here is why: The Bible is often used to oppress and condemn and judge. This essay will show how religious people in the past had evil intentions to use the Bible even to the point of killing others because of their hardened hearts. YOU MAY WANT TO KNOW: WHY DO PEOPLE USE THE BIBLE TO TRY AND HURT US NON BELIEVERS? WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THIS? I would say: if you want to do something about this, read the Bible for yourself. I would strongly urge that non believers would not be afraid to read the Bible because of people who give it a bad flavor. I believe that everyone should try to learn as much as they can about different cultures. Without this learning people will never come to an understanding of one another.  Here I want to use the concept of SHELTERS to write about USING THE BIBLE TO BASH OTHERS and WHY OTHERS USE THE BIBLE IN THIS WAY. I will talk about 1) A HOLIDAY CALLED SUKKOT, I will talk about 2) SUKKOT SHELTERS AND THE REASON WHY SHELTERS ARE NEEDED, and I will then come back to the topic of 3) BASHING PEOPLE WITH THE BIBLE.


At sundown on Sunday September 30th was the beginning of the 7 day festival called Sukkot. The Festival of Booths, or Shelters as I would prefer to call it for the purpose of this essay.

Q: What is the gist of these 7 holy days which revolve around shelters? (Exodus. 23.16, 34.22; Deuteronomy. 16.13.Nehemiah 8.14-15).

A: The main purpose of these 7 holy days is to commemorate and remember that when the Israelites were wandering in the dessert for 40 years. God commanded the Israelites to live in shelters in the wilderness. While wandering in the desert, the Israelites were accompanied by a pillar of cloud by day. This cloud gave them protection from the scorching sun and naturally brutal elements. By night a pillar of fire was with the Israelites because desert temperatures are extreme and I am guessing that during the night it was cold. The cloud and fire provided shelter. Many times, the Bible uses a 40 day or 40 year period of time to tell us that the people were in a destructive state, and after the period of 40 measurements the people had "fasted" during the 40 and were purified after the 40. During some Sukkot times the law of Torah is read throughout the 7 days.


If you flip open a Bible to John chapter 7, you will come across an account written by John about Jesus during the holiday of Sukkot. I call this part of the essay "SUKKOT SHELTERS AND THE REASON WHY SHELTERS ARE NEEDED " because during this account we can see that Jesus used the shelters to his advantage as the Pharisees sought to kill him. Here it goes!


The religious leaders in Judea were plotting the death of Jesus. He was traveling around Galilee but he would need to go to Judea to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Shelters, Sukkot.

His brothers urged Jesus to go to Judea where the streets would be crowded and he could amaze and attract more followers and become famous by showing off his miracles. His brothers did not believe in him, they were actually mocking him by saying this.

Jesus told his brothers that because he was hated he would not be able to go, but he told the brothers that they could go because they were not hated.

The brothers left for the festival. Jesus actually ended up leaving for the festival as well, but after his brothers had already gone. Jesus got to the festival ducking around to avoid being noticed.

The Jewish leaders looked for Jesus during the festival but they could not find him.

I can speculate that Jesus would be hard to find. Imagine the city, Judea, where everyone had created booths for their families, guests, and friends. You are allowed to be a guest during this holiday. You can come as an "ushpizin" which is a guest that comes to a family's shelter. Jesus may have been with his own family. He also may have been an ushpizin at one or many of the shelters around Judea. It would be easy to find Jesus if he had stayed in Galilee. But Jesus decided to go to Judea during Sukkot. And everyone else was also in Judea. So, Jesus was ducking around for the beginning few days. Those seeking to kill him could not find him. Partly because no one would give him up, and I am sure it was also hard to find one person in a city packed with both local and traveling Jews.

Near the middle of the festival, possibly on about day 3 or 4 out of the 7 days, Jesus revealed himself by teaching at the Temple.

People were amazed at his teaching. It does not say what he was teaching. But he got the people's attention. Apparently, Jesus had not been trained, and people knew this.  

The traditions of the Jews for teaching and speaking about Torah require devotion to study. It was mostly the privileged and smartest people who were allowed to devote their early years to train to become a learned scholar. If you needed to help the family by working, you would not have the time to study. You needed to be favored and come from a prestigious background to even be given the privilege. (Have you seen "Fiddler on the Roof?" Tav says that if he was a rich man, he would study the holy books all day long). But, you still see Jesus teaching in the Temple.

THE TEACHING DID NOT GO WELL: Jesus called out that the leaders were trying to kill him. The people believed he was demon possessed and paranoid. They did not seem to know that the leaders wanted Jesus dead. Why would they want Jesus dead?

The back-story goes like this: Jesus had previously healed a man on the Sabbath, which was considered work. He said during his teaching that the leaders also worked when they circumcised their 8 day old boys on the Sabbath. This is why they wanted to kill him, because he did a miracle of healing on the Sabbath which was considered to be the work of healing according to the leaders.

Torah says not to work on the Sabbath. And work, in many cases, is determined by any activity that was done during the building of the Temple (e.g. lighting fire to bake bricks, building, creating, etc). Many forms of healing were considered work: grinding, manipulating an abscess, sipping vinegar, etc. Although some exceptions were made for the use of vinegar on the Sabbath. But some forms of healing were not considered work, mainly PIKUAH NEFESH= "to save a life." In addition, it was not considered work to use eye salve if the salve was applied before Sabbath began and was left on through the holy day; applying leaves was not considered work because leaves were not considered to have healing properties. Just to note, many of these laws come from the Talmud (Mishnah and Gemara., etc), but not from Torah.

Don't get me wrong, I am not refuting the Talmud texts. I am just stating that these thoughts come from an Oral Torah which was also used during the time of Jesus. This information would later be written down in the second century. The Oral Torah was not yet written down during Jesus' time. This information is said to have been given to Moses when he received Torah from God. It is said that Moses passed this information down in oral form, and it had been oral until the second century. Either way, as a rabbi, Jesus would have had knowledge of this information.

Because of the healing Jesus performed on the Sabbath in John 5, the religious leaders wanted to kill him. (In Matthew 12.9, Mark 3.1, Luke 6.6, Jesus also healed a man's hand on the Sabbath while teaching in synagogue).

According to Torah, one could be killed for breaking the Sabbath. It is debatable that the type of healing Jesus did would be considered breaking the Sabbath. Many types of healing are actually permitted on the Sabbath. So for the leaders to broadly say that healing was forbidden was actually incorrect, because there were ways in which healing was permitted.

After Jesus taught, the leaders tried to arrest him. THIS IS WHY I SAID THE TEACHING DID NOT GO WELL. I cannot imagine this happening in church. Correction, it has happened many times in a church but just in a different way.

Again Jesus spoke to the people. This was possibly on the 7th and final day of Sukkot Jesus shouted a quote: "Rivers of living water will flow from his heart" (Proverbs 18.4, Isaiah 44.3; 58.11- these passages generally state what Jesus said here, but this quote is not in the Bible exactly as Jesus said it).

While Jesus was teaching, there was a full debate going on in the Temple; Based on Micah 5.2, some debated that he could not be the Messiah because he was from Galilee and not born of the royal line of David in Bethlehem... But in fact, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Joseph was of the line of David.

Some wanted Jesus arrested.

Some believed Jesus was a prophet (Deuteronomy. 18.15, 18; Malachi. 4.5-6).

The guards were going to arrest Jesus, but they were conflicted because they believed him.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had come to Jesus at night earlier on in the book of John, spoke up for Jesus saying that you cannot convict a man without a trial.


Jesus went to the Mount of Olives after Sukkot. But the next day he returned to the Temple early in the morning. Following the 7th and last day of Sukkot there was still another holy day (Leviticus 23.36, 39). He gained some students and he was teaching them. Then a woman who was framed during adultery with a man was sentenced to a stoning.

WHAT WAS JESUS TEACHING ON THIS DAY? Jesus could have been teaching V'ZOHT HABERACHA= "and this is the blessing" (Deuteronomy. 33.1-34.12). Or maybe he was teaching BERESHIT "in the beginning" (Genesis 1). My speculation comes from the parshah sections based on the current Jewish readings during and after the High Holidays.

While he was teaching in the Temple on this 8th holy day, a woman caught in adultery was brought before him. The leaders sought to stone her based on the law (Leviticus 20.10; Deuteronomy 22.23-24), but the law would have required the stoning of both the man and the woman. But here the leaders only wanted to stone the woman. Something strange and wrong seemed to be happening with these religious folk. Why were they condemning people? Why were they tweaking the words of Torah, the instruction of God, to try and kill and harm others? Do holy people really try to kill and harm others? This does not seem right to me.

The previous sections talked about why shelters are needed. The reason why shelters are needed is to protect ourselves from being exposed to the elements. Again, the Israelites were exposed as they wandered in the desert. But there are still some people who are wandering. They are also exposed. They are exposed because they do not have a pillar of cloud, nor do they have a pillar of fire. They also do not have a sukkah or shelter to dwell in as others are running around trying to bash them with the Bible.

Based on the red text, you can see that sometimes people use the Bible in a twisted manner. They try to condemn, judge, and even kill others. BUT THEY DO THIS BY USING HALF OF THE TRUTH.

I can say that non believers could find truth in the Bible. But, they would have to be open to the Bible. And it is hard to be open to the Bible if people are trying to hurt you with this book.

The Bible teaches love. You can read this for yourself. Jesus says to love God (Deuteronomy) and love your neighbor (Leviticus). Basically, that is what the Bible teaches. Jews would also say this same thing. Religious Jews repeat, multiple times a day, The Shema. This is what Jesus referred to from Deuteronomy 6.4+. They definitely believe this.

So, why would someone want to bash another person? Change the wording of the Bible? Use strange interpretations to try and trip others up? Try and scare people by telling them that hell is their destiny? Work so hard to keep a non believer from entering a church/ Temple?


To me, it seems like the Pharisees did all of those things mentioned above. But you never see Jesus doing any of that kind of stuff, do you?

Jesus said that he does not judge. But he would be right in judgment, but he does not.

So, why would some humans spend so much time doing this? Why would some Christians spend so much time doing this? Who are we?

The judgment we see Jesus using was usually used against those leaders who were always attacking him. His attackers were not interested in his well being. They were not trying to serve him. They were trying to catch him so that they could have a reason to kill him. Because they hated him.


By looking at this picture we can see that treating a person that way is not good and correct. If you love a person you will not attack them. Jesus was uplifting towards those he healed. When he spoke to the oppressed and non believing people he was kind and gave them instruction. He was not attacking them. He did not try and get them arrested. He did not try and put them in jail. He did not try and trap them and make them feel like idiots.

Did he?

Why would some Christians spend so much time doing this? Who are we?

Basically, this is a time of reflecting on how God has protected us from the elements we are surrounded by. We may not be in the desert for 40 years, but we likely don't live in a utopia. We likely have things that we need shelter from:

and spiritually.

It would be nice if people were not trying to shelter themselves from Christians as Jesus tried to shelter himself from the Pharisees during Sukkot.

It would be good if Christians and churches could be the shelter in their social lives and communities.

It would be nice if Christians could all focus on how Jesus lived and not focus on their egos of being correct or incorrect and judgmental.

Because these things are nowhere near as important as love.

Christians ought to be SHELTERS and not HARSH ELEMENTS.


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